The Long-term Risks of Tampon Use
Women may have legislation that will support menstrual advocacy. The Robin Danielson Act is named for Robin Danielson, a woman who died in 1998 of Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS)—which is linked to tampon usage. The act is sponsored by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), and would require more resources for independent testing into the potentials risks and hazards of long-term use of feminine hygiene products—most notably tampons and pads. Other products like wipes and washes, don’t require safety testing at all. The possible danger of using these products lies in the fibers and materials they’re made of. These products are often released to the public before receiving human testing or research by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Before Rep. Carolyn Maloney reintroduced the Act after it was shot down several times without ever reaching a vote, feminine hygiene product manufacturers were only privately testing their products. This could most likely result in high probability that data from product testing was biased and skewed. Independently testing products requires accountability and full disclosure—especially of test results, to the public. The act would also allow for research to be done on reproductive health following the overall use of these products.
Rep. Maloney tells RH Reality Check, “We need more dedicated and substantial research to address unanswered health concerns regarding the safety of feminine hygiene products.” American women spend well over $2 billion per year on feminine hygiene products, and the average woman will use over 16,800 tampons and pads over the course of her lifetime. Despite this large investment and high usage, there has been limited research on the potential health risks these products may pose to women.”
Some health advocates have confirmed testing does occur but because tampons and pads specifically are considered ‘medical devices,’ the FDA doesn’t require them to list the ingredients used to make them.
The FDA provided ‘guidance documents’ in 2005 to menstruation product manufacturers looking to get pre-market approval (PMA) encouraging them to run preclinical and health test and trials in order to be fully aware of any effects, especially ones that are adverse, the products have on the female anatomy. Unfortunately, much of the testing data is kept secret and the FDA doesn’t seem to be enforcing their guidelines strictly enough.
Rep. Maloney leading legislation for menstrual health advocacy says, “The reality is menstrual health has been considered a taboo subject for far too long…My legislation will give women the ability to make more informed decisions as they seek to lead healthy lives.”